The Ultimate Beef Burger, Recipease

Naming your only meat sandwich ‘The Ultimate Beef Burger’ takes some gumption, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from Mr. Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and TV personality and restaurateur and anything else you’d care to mention, whose Recipease chain served it up to me one sleepy Monday lunchtime. I’ve had mixed experiences with Jamie’s various culinary ventures in the past. I often whip up recipes from his bazillion cookbooks with  some success, whilst meals out at Jamie’s Italian have either been very hot, or very cold affairs. That’s figuratively speaking of course, I’m not comparing chillies with ice-cream here. So the wife and I sat down at the polished wooden table in Recipease with a certain level of anticipation but not really expecting to be blown away by the food on offer. And we weren’t, as it turns out.

Part cookery-school, part canteen, part shop, the Recipease we have here in sunny Brighton is a curious affair, a strange hybrid that might have you lunching with a pal whilst an over-coated shopper browses behind you, idly admiring a big yellow teapot. Or leafing through yet another newly-released tome containing choice phrases like ‘pukka’ or ‘whazz it up’. The kitchen-cum-learning station sits in the centre of the eating space, emitting sights, sounds and smells as your lunch is cooked to order. It’s a pleasant way to anticipate your meal, especially as you can keep half an eye on its construction.

recipease1Recipease – other than this kitchen and the tables and chairs, pretty much everything else if for sale.

The Ultimate Beef Burger can be ordered one of three ways – plain (with English mustard, baby gem lettuce, egg mayo and thyme-caramelised onions), with mature cheddar cheese, or mature cheddar cheese and streaky bacon. Three guesses which one I plumped for, and the first two don’t count. My wife went for some spicy avocado smush on toast thing. To each their own, eh?

recipease2The Ultimate Beef Burger, complete with rosemary skewer.

The Burger

The first thing you notice is that spear of fresh rosemary skewering the layers of the burger together, actually looking pretty damn resplendent. First impressions count, as our eyes tend to rule our bellies, and this unusual touch was a welcome one, until you remove it and all hell breaks loose on that bun. Described in the menu as a “soft” bun, this aggressively-decorated bap wasn’t quite up to the task of holding the stack of ingredients inside. The first bite sent the patty and the lettuce careening out the other side of the burger, and caused a large chunk of the bun to break off into oblivion (or, rather, the attractive wooden board on which the burger was presented). This set the tone for the whole meal; take a bite, watch in horror as the excessive mayo oozes out onto a stray finger, frantically try to contain the rapidly disintegrating mess, and finally concede defeat and finish off the sad debris with a knife and fork. Shame.

recipease4Halfway through eating it, reduced to a chaotic mess of ingredients to be eaten with knife and fork

The beef though was coarse, flavourful and rich, luckily surviving that aggressive mayo overkill. The bacon, crisp and streaky added a welcome dash of seasoning but after the first gooey, cheesy bite, the cheddar seemed to vanish, rarely raising its head again to compliment the beef. That sea of mayo tasted like the regular stuff to my palate, with nary a hint of the free-range eggs that had been promised within. The onions were juicy and sweet, complimenting what was a surprise highlight – the lettuce. Yep, the lettuce; the most overlooked and unnecessary component in a burger, but nonetheless bright, crunchy and delicious in this particular one.

But a burger is only as good as its bun, and whilst I’m quite partial to wiping grease off my chin, or washing sauces off my chops, a burger that disintegrates before I finish it is a cardinal sin in my book. And having to take a knife and fork to it is a crime; an affront to any burger aficionado. Sort that bun out Recipease, and maybe ease up on the mayo, and this would be a much, much better burger.

The Sides

What, no chips?! It being a lunchtime and everything, the lack of any kind of potato-based side dish wasn’t quite as galling as it might have been, but still, if you’re going to serve a burger, then sell it with at least the option of fries on the side. Toss them in rosemary or put them in an attractive tin if you want to dress them up a bit, but just make sure they’re there! Don’t thinly slice up a gherkin and lattice them up on the side of the burger. They should be in the burger!

Summary

There’s lots to admire here, and customers should factor in that this is the only burger on the menu, which otherwise comprises much ‘foodier’ dishes. The ingredients were of a high quality, as you would expect of a chain run by a celebrity chef, but the baffling bun choice and over-zealous mayo lets down the Ultimate Beef Burger. Switch up the cheddar with something a bit punchier and bung in an order of fries, and I’d consider coming back for this one. Even if only for that delightful sprig of rosemary speared through the middle.

Price: £7.50 (+ £0.55 for mature cheddar and £1.55 for mature cheddar and streaky bacon)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The ODB, BBQ Shack at The World’s End

Being no stranger to The World’s End’s wares, I knew I wouldn’t leave the London Road pub hungry; their BBQ Club sandwich of ham, turkey breast, bacon and cheese is a personal favourite of mine, and never fails to do anything less than make me stagger, satiated, out the door. But I have my limits, and new behemoth the ODB, not only reaches those limits, but utterly annihilates them. When I went in a number of weeks back, it wasn’t even listed on the laminated menu, so I had to ask for it. I’d seen it calling me seductively, bulging obscenely with its ridiculous collection of meats, from the BBQ Shack Facebook page. I had an intrepid friend with me, also hungry and apprehensive in equal measure like myself. The server raised his eyebrows at us as I uttered the letters, then proceeded to warn us that he could only manage a quarter of his when he tried one the day before. I wanted to scream at him, tell him who I was (thus blowing my anonymnity), and tell him that I snaffle down burgers for breakfast (not yet) but instead smiled and told him that “I’d manage.”

How wrong I was. The plate landed on the table with a noise like an anvil, and an insane sandwich of biblical proportions was staring me in the face. I looked across at my stricken companion, whose eyes had gone as wide as saucers. “Fuck me,” we said in unison.

Let’s break it down, then. The ODB consists of the following: pulled pork, Mexican chorizo, a 250gm all-beef hamburger patty, smoked bacon, sliced brisket, cheese and onion rings. In a store-bought bap, evidently. These things are a match made in meat-lover heaven; a towering smorgasbord of some of the most delectable foods on the planet. I only managed half, and then had a crippling stomach-ache for the remainder of the afternoon.

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The Burger

The first thing to tackle with the ODB is just how you’re going to eat the damn thing. Picking it up is simply out of the question; the ingredients were already escaping their bappy prison, trying to lift the bugger would have resulted in an incredibly messy shirt. I just attacked it from the outer rim with knife and fork, trying to sample everything it had to offer in one humungous bite at a time. My friend removed his bun from the equation entirely, and worked from the top down. As you’ll see shortly, it made little difference. Neither of us made it halfway through.

Its girth is not in question then. It’s frankly too big. Obscenely big. Too big even for two people to eat comfortably. Neither of us stood a chance. In terms of its ingredients, there were some clear highlights. The brisket was the standout component, moist, flavourful and plentiful. The patty was anonymous, buried deep under its cousins, a fate it shared with the Mexican chorizo. The pulled pork made itself known with the notes of the BBQ sauce, and the onion rings provided a welcome meat break. But not enough. Throwing this many meats together in a single burger is pure overkill. On paper, it’s enough to make a burger fanatic drool profusely, in reality its a heavy, uniform mass of meat, without distinction and without relief. That sounds perhaps unnecessarily harsh, as this is a sandwich that would make even Adam Bateman raise his eyebrows. I enjoyed it to a point, as any meat-lover will do, but it failed to satisfy, and so ridiculous was the amount that I spent the afternoon clutching my stomach in actual, physical pain. This burger is not for the faint-hearted. Literally. As it will kill you dead.

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As far as I managed…

The Sides 

I felt like I couldn’t look at food ever again after the ODB, so the sides barely got a second glance. The chips were plentiful, as usual for the BBQ Shack meals, and the salad might have provided some respite. But it didn’t stand a chance in the wake of the enormity of the burger task next to it on the plate.

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Summary

It’s the biggest burger I’ve ever seen, let alone tried to eat, with the exception of the gargantuan things I’ve seen on Man Vs. Food, but they don’t count. It’s a challenge, then, a burger badge of honour. A burger to impress your mates with over a couple of pints. It’s not a satisfying meal, however, it’s a true gutbuster. I’m glad it’s on the BBQ Shack menu, and I’m glad I tried to tackle it, but I’ll never order it again. But I will be back at the BBQ Shack. Their other burgers are great, and the BBQ Club even more so. Take my advice; if you do fancy taking on the ODB, try and share it eh? Your cholesterol will thank me.

Price: £15 approx. (I paid for both on my card, and it came to just under £30)

Rating: 3 out of 5

PdV Burger, Pub de Vin

Burgers, like people, need to make a strong first impression. That initial appraisal, the slow sizing-up of the meal before you, can contribute a lot to the lasting memory of a meal. In the case of the PdV Burger at swanky public house Pub de Vin, my first impression was ‘Go home, you’re drunk.’ Barely held together by its skewer, the burger was lurching off to the side so violently it was about to take a fatal dip in the dainty little container of tomato relish sat beside it. For a simple reason – it was too god-damned big. We sat down for lunch in Pub de Vin just after midday on a Saturday, and thought we had stepped in to a morgue. The room was dingy and quiet. A middle-aged couple, whiling away their time over a newspaper and book, watched us sit down a few tables away from them and shortly after asked for their bill. Which was odd, as we’d already lowered our tones to stay consistent with the ambience.

It being a rather swanky establishment, we decided to order starters before our mains. I settled on garlic mushrooms on toast, which was generally pretty good, although exceptionally garlicky and a touch too much rocket for my tastes. My fiancé plumped for the smoked mackerel paté, which looked very decent indeed, prompting immediate food envy. But you’re not here for starters – you’re here to read about burgers, so let’s talk about the PdV burger in a little more detail.

The Burger

So, yes, the fact that the burger had collapsed off to the side in its transit from the kitchen to the table was a bit of a disappointment, curiously. The whole shebang had distended like an accordion, its ingredients isolated and laid bare. Even when I carefully reassembled everything, the PdV burger was absurdly big, far too chunky to pick up without wearing its innards down my Saturday best, or dislocating my jaw. I had to resort to cutlery, dissecting the burger piecemeal, with the unwelcome result of taking the odd mouthful of pure bun, or a large wet slice of tomato. A burger is intended to be bitten into, sampling everything it had to offer at once; eating the ingredients like this, the burger once again spreading itself over the plate, quickly became, dare I say it, a bit of a chore.

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That’s not to say that the ingredients were anything less than quality though, and you would hope so for the princely sum of £14.50. The patty was coarse, chunky and charred beautifully, the bacon fleshy and meaty. The gruyere, incredibly pungent when the platter was brought to the table, was curiously bland. Salad was plentiful and fresh, but no-one eats a burger for the green stuff. And, the homemade bun, taking its fair share of the blame for the bulk of the burger, was buttery and soft. But the whole failed to live up to the sum of its parts.

The Fries

Now, these were good. Ensconced in a metal cone propped up in a corner of the platter, these light, crispy fries were very tasty, and seemed to go on forever. The sheer quantity of them helped round out the value of what was essentially a very pricey burger and chips.

pubdeVinchips

Summary

Having heard great things about Pub de Vin’s big brother Hotel de Vin, I was expecting big things from this chain. Perhaps my expectations were too large, or perhaps the eerie quiet and sombre lighting inside dampened my spirits a little. The ingredients of the burger were undoubtedly of good quality, and the presentation of the meal could not be faulted, but the overall experience was disappointing, almost emasculating me with its size and reducing me to the shame of eating my burger with knife and fork. In general, the food here was good, evidenced in our starters and my fiancé’s club sandwich, but bistro burgers seem to suffer when subjected to the rules of fine dining. Give me a cheaper, dirtier, greasier burger any day of the week.

Price: £14.50 (includes fries)

Rating: 3 out of 5

Délice Cheese Beef Burger, at Cafe Délice

I used to visit Cafe Délice most lunchtimes when I first moved down to Brighton from the Big Smoke. My new place of work was right round the corner from Kensington Gardens, where the cafe sits at the end. Without fail, I ordered the Monster Club to take away – ham, cheese, mayo and salad inside a massive baguette the size of a grown man’s foreman. The ham was thick cut and excellent quality, and such was the enormity of the baguette (it wasn’t called Monster Club for nothin’), eating it felt as satisfying as a full meal. Afterwards my desk was always swamped in crumbs.

Cafe Délice has undergone a major refurb since those days; gone is the oversized glass counter that housed the fresh ingredients and whole cakes, gone, too, is the emphasis on takeaway lunches. In its place are the rustic wood panelling and rickety tables that evoke memories of a Parisian lifestyle, reinforced by the wine racks on the counter, the extensive liquor cabinet on the wall, and the accents of the pretty young things that bustle around us taking orders and serving meals.

cafedelice

And by the fact my charmingly-named Cheese Beef Burger came in a baguette, of course. There was only one burger on the menu, so choosing it was easy, although I decided on the addition of bacon too because… well, who wouldn’t? Those who are of a more fungal disposition can add sautéed mushrooms for the same price. My fiancé chose a smoked salmon ciabatta, free from the obligation of choosing another burger on the list, because there wasn’t one. She regretted her choice though, as she only got half a ciabatta, and felt her meal hadn’t been worth the price.

The Burger

I’ve made my distaste of raw red onion clear in these posts before, so was skeptical of the bright purple ooze spilling out from my burger as it was placed before me, as if the patty had suffered a mortal wound and was slowly expiring atop that attractive serving board. But it was delicious – a soft and tangy red onion marmelade that helped cut through the richness of a beautiful piece of beef and a smoked and streaky ribbon of bacon, pink as a human tongue. The patty was so homemade it even struggled to be round; its surface undulated wildly, creating peaks and troughs in which the cheese had happily settled to melt slowly into the meat. A light serving of lettuce underneath was just enough to provide some balance to those heady rich flavours.

And then there was the ‘bun’. The baguette that all this goodness was housed in looked crusty, which can be a tricky proposition for a burger, as the first bite tends to push out the ingredients ungracefully onto the table. But this baguette was beautifully soft and floury, so much so that it began to split down the middle about halfway into the burger, but doing just enough to survive to the bitter end.

deliceburger

The Fries

Half a dozen entires in, and I’m finding it’s becoming difficult to write about fries without retreading old ground. They were good – thin and crispy, and (fairly) plentiful. That’s about all I can say on the matter.

Summary

While the burger was indeed “délice”, not everything was to my liking. At £10.20 (including the £1.25 supplement for bacon), it wasn’t the cheapest burger and chips I’ve ever sampled, although also not the most expensive. The main bugbear was how long it took to arrive – so late in our allotted lunch hour that we had to snaffle it up pretty swiftly. But these are minor quibbles. This is a very tasty burger indeed, the red onion marmelade a surprising winning component alongside quality ingredients all-round. If you have time to take in a lazy lunch, you could do far worse.

Price: £8.95 (+£1.25 for bacon)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Dirt Burger, Waggon And Horses

I can’t help myself, really. Faced with that long list of options (each one sounding worthy of its own entry) there was a sense of inevitability that I would choose the most outlandish burger, a concept that could easily have sailed east across the Atlantic from our American friends, a behemoth that would perhaps shave a year off my life if consumed. The Dirt Burger. A chuck steak patty, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and red onion. So far, so normal. A bun comprised of two toasted cheese sandwiches. Sorry, what was that?

It was a close-run thing though. There was the Truffle, tempting me with it’s addition of (you guessed it) black truffle to its patty. Or the Zombie Head Shot, given consideration merely because of its utterly ridiculous name, a moniker more at home on a trendy cocktail list than a food menu, but putting me off with its blue cheese and guacamole combo – neither of which I’m a fan of. But the Dirt Burger won out, the sheer novelty of two meals, breakfast and lunch, coming together in an unholy alliance under the burger banner.

For its breadth of scope, Waggon And Horses should be commended; offering no less than fifteen different burgers on its permanent menu and a further three specials, from which my companion for the day (the newly reinvigorated fiancé taking one for the team once again) chose her lunch – the Holy Guacamole. Comprised of chicken, halloumi, guacamole, salsa and salad, hers almost rivalled mine in sheer towering size.

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The Burger

Ah what a curious creature the Dirt Burger is, a sandwich of two halves so to speak; literally so, once I’d sawn it awkwardly in half for a cut-through shot. The first few mouthfuls are surprising but tasty – the toasties providing delicious melted cheese, the smoked bacon holding its own against a chunky and coarse patty that’s cooked well, and the raw red onion (my nemesis) not competing too aggressively to be the dominant flavour. The crunch of the toasted bread, boasting slightly too much char, is a not unwelcome texture to the experience, certainly providing a more durable receptacle to house the burger’s innards than several other buns I’ve had down the years that break apart as soon as you give them that first lustful glance. But as time wears on the Dirt Burger begins to become a bit of a chore. Those two layers of cheese that bookend the experience start to harden and congeal, and suddenly all the moisture of the burger gets sucked out. The patty, whilst undoubtedly of good quality, isn’t the most juicy, and with no detectable sauces hiding away under the salad, the Dirt Burger soon becomes the Dry Burger. I had to dunk the last four or five mouthfuls in my splodge of mayo reserved for my fries, so desperate was it for some moisture.

And afterwards, the remorse. The slow calculation of how many calories might have just been consumed. The post-burger belly beginning to cramp up immediately. The slowly-dawning dread that its actually a fair old walk back to the comforts of home. By no means a bad burger – this has plenty going for it, not least the sheer gluttony of it all – I won’t be eating it again. Although I’m certainly not put off in trying some of the other interesting looking sandwiches on the list.

The Fries

“Any spare centimetres in that overflowing gut of yours?” the Waggon And Horses asks? “We’ll see to that.”

Alongside my burger colossus on its tasteful wooden platter was a small white bowl positively overflowing with crisp golden fries. So much so that a rogue one sabotaged my artfully composed burger shot, and another had given up and launched itself off the side. Fantastic value at just £2.00 extra, the fries were tasty enough but almost immediately stone cold. Hard to begrudge this when they’re all sitting out in the open like that, far away from the warmth of their receptacle, but still – nobody really wants cold fries do they?

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The Venue

Waggon And Horses is a cosy little pub that sits on the corner of Jubilee Street and Church Street, where the staff are friendly and the whisky list is extensive. In the summer, the place positively heaves, buoyed by an enormous beer ‘garden’ (essentially an area staked out on the pavement outside) that attracts sun-seekers looking for liquid refreshment. Inside, you’ll find the usual items that denote classic English pubs up and down the land – fruit machines, brass light fittings, and old boys in flat caps whiling away a lazy lunch hour. The staff were suitably warm and friendly, like most places in this fair town, and all in all its a very decent little boozer.

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Summary

For sheer novelty factor, the Dirt Burger will be tough to beat. Whilst the Troll Pantry surprises and delights with exotic ingredients (take a bow, Jim Beam bourbon) the Dirt Burger goes for all-out calorific war, fusing two gutbusting meals into one, and channeling the spirit of American burger joints across the pond. But here’s the rub – it actually gets worse as a burger rather than better, mainly because of that lack of greasy, juicy goodness that keeps a burger satisfying to the end. Here’s a pro tip: if you do get one – and you still should, all things considered – split it with a friend, and wolf down those decadent toasties whilst the cheese is still all good and gooey. You, and your belly, will thank me for it.

Price: £7.50 (+ £2.00 for the fries)

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheese Burger, The Globe

The inaugural burger for the Brighton Burgers blog couldn’t have gone less smoothly. I had intended (along with my intrepid burger-ing companion, my fiancé) to make JB’s American Diner my first review. But it seems that a lot of other people hanker for a burger on a late Saturday afternoon too. Having been before, I knew it got busy, but this time it was heaving. They’d even removed the pool table since my last visit in order to cram in more tables. The waitress took my name and number, quoted a 30 minute wait, and ushered us out the door with a smile.

We decided to pass the time by drinking cocktails around the corner at Doctor Brighton’s. We managed two each, in just over an hour, before realising we weren’t getting a call. Chalking up a black mark for JB’s future entry on this blog, we instead headed for The Globe, a pub situated on Middle Street.

And there it was, standing out like sore thumb on the menu – the heavily American-influenced Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheese Burger. How could one not plump for that concoction – something you’d more likely find on Man Vs. Food than on the menu of a British public house. It came with chips included in the price, but we upgraded them to the Cheese Fries for an extra quid.

The Burger

The Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheese Burger is pretty aptly-named, as it turns out. A single patty, melted American cheese and crispy strips of bacon are lovingly sandwiched between two halves of a glistening Krispy Kreme doughnut. Initial impressions are underwhelming – the burger is almost comically small. Perhaps just a touch bigger than a slider. The patty is thin but dense, the bacon crispy indeed. But the overall dominant taste is that mouthful of sugar that bookends the ingredients – the other components of this ludicrous burger just don’t stand a chance, and the overriding feeling is one of eating a dense doughnut and not a burger.

The Fries

Luckily, The Globe make up for the size of the burger with a mountainous pile of fries, served in a plastic basket alongside the main event. Drenched in cheese sauce, mustard and mayo, these were heavy on the condiments but high in satisfaction, and formed the bulk of the meal. So great were the quantity, that they were impossible to finish. They could have done with more of the cheese sauce and less of the other condiments, but this is a minor nitpick; unlike the burger, I’d happily order these again.

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The Venue

Dimly lit but unique, The Globe is a decent boozer to while away an hour (or five, in this case) on the seafront on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The incessant chug of the paddles on the wall of the upper bar is the main talking point, but they also have a large basement bar with retro consoles set up for those impromptu sessions of Mario Kart. They also have a Basement Cinema night every week – free film, free popcorn and a ‘text your order’ service. The service was also very amiable during our visit, but no salt and pepper on the table is a cardinal sin in my eyes.

Summary

A memorable meal but not a particularly excellent one. The burger was unusual but needed a stronger patty, better bacon and much more girth. The fries were oversaturated with condiments but still enjoyable. The presentation – arranged on a tray lined with red-and-white-striped paper – was a nice touch that evoked memories of hamburger chains from across the Atlantic.

Price: £7.50 (+ £1 cheese fries upgrade)

Rating: 3 out of 5.